March 20, 2017

France will hold a new presidential election at the end of April, with effects that will ripple throughout Europe, and the destructive ideas of both populism and socialism are playing a prominent role in candidate rhetoric. The Institute de Formation Politique (IFP), an Atlas Network partner based in France, provides an antidote to this divisive political climate by bringing young people together to discuss the principles of liberty and responsibility, and to develop strategies for putting them into action. Founded more than a decade ago, IFP has attracted more than 1,200 students to its seminars and programs.

In early April, IFP founder and director Alexandre Pesey will discuss his organization’s work and the dynamics of the French political climate at a series of three Atlas Network events. On April 4, Pesey will speak at the Princeton Club of New York; on April 5, he will speak in Sarasota, Fla.; and on April 6, he will speak in Naples, Fla. In his presentations, Pesey will provide an inside view of the recent changes in French intellectual, political, and civil society, and explain the opportunities and challenges faced by the Freedom movement in Europe.

“For a long time, France — and many European countries — seemed to have two groups facing each other: a strong left camp versus a center right group,” explains Alexander Pesey, director of the Institute Formation de Politique. “The first one was socialist on economics and progressive on social issues; the other one seemed slightly free-market on economics and somewhat conservative on social issues. In other words, Karl Marx and Jean-Paul Sartre versus Jacques Rueff and Raymond Aron.”

In less than five years, Pesey points out, this traditional opposition between the left and the right exploded.

“Emmanuel Macron of the En Marche! party and Marine Le Pen of the National Front are ahead in the polls for the presidential race that will occur at the end of April in France,” Pesey continues. “Neither of these two candidates belong to the two main and dominant parties, and neither of them can be classified in either of the two traditional categories. What happened? How can we explain this? Is it French exceptionalism or another surge of populism? What can we expect for Europe and the West?”

IFP has a substantial track record of success instilling in its students the tools necessary to make a difference in the political process. Pesey explains that IFP’s seminars are only the first step. Applying the principles of a free society to the real world is crucial.

The reality of this objective is evident in IFP’s program alumni. Vesselina Spassova, for instance, went on to become a researcher at the Institut de Recherches Économiques et Fiscales and is now an elected official in the south of France. Gonzague de Chanterac was only 18 when he joined IFP, and he now works in the French Parliament. Charlotte Uher published the first study of a critical look at public schools and the costs to society for Fondation iFRAP. Samuel LaFont and Charles Huet have become well known intellectuals and media sensations. Three IFP alumni founded SOS Chretiens d’Orient, an organization that sent 800 people to the Middle East over three years to provide relief for the thousands of Christians fleeing ISIS.

IFP recently launched business incubator Le Coquetier to attract young entrepreneurs who want to launch innovative new projects. Pesey explains that the program will “give the tools and knowledge to make your project for your ideas and convictions become a success,” by providing opportunities for capital and connections. “In a few months, we received 30 projects.”